Satire is dead: Brick by Brick and ‘the power of social housing’

On Wednesday, Brick by Brick, Croydon Council’s wholly-owned, loss-making house-builder, will be staging a virtual ‘discussion’ entitled, The Power of Social Housing, an act which prompted some to recall Tom Lehrer’s remarks on the day Henry Kissinger was named a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
MIRA BAR-HILLEL gives her views on BxB’s status as a ‘virtual’ housing developer

Crime wouldn’t pay if the council ran it, goes the old saying.

In the case of Croydon Council, its incompetence, both general and financial, has actually left the local taxpayers up to their ears in debt.

But fear not: when all else fails, call in some architects and switch the debate from the real to the abstract. Like the forthcoming “virtual debate” on The Power of Social Housing – very appropriate, given that social housing delivered by Croydon in the past five years amounted to… three one-bed flats.

The virtual discussion will take place between three women architects you probably have never heard of (I haven’t), to be chaired by Martyn Evans (who is the chair of the Brick by Brick company board), from the virtual offices of Brick by Brick, the mainly virtual housing developer established by Croydon Council in 2015.

Martyn Evans: chair of a virtual housing developer

So never mind the width, feel the quality: “Whilst the delivery of new social housing continues to falter,” the organisers admit pompously, “the design quality of many new developments far outstrips that of private tenure.”

Brick by Brick, it claims, is a “developer focusing on providing both high quality and affordable housing across Croydon”.

Shame it has little to show for it so far, which also goes for its smaller sites programme which “is transforming the borough through extensive but sensitive infill development, working with some of the country’s best architects and up-and-coming practices”. Again, sadly, there is little or nothing to show for it.

Wednesday’s virtual event will discuss “the power of design to create homes where people can thrive, as well as the shifting attitudes towards social housing across the country”.

Typical architects’ bullshit: full of sound and fury signifying nothing – in this case, literally nothing.

  • Mira Bar-Hillel, pictured right, is a former housing and architecture correspondent for The Independent and the Evening Standard, for whom she worked for 35 years

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News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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